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METZ: Refined Punk Brutes Pop You in the Mouth (Concisely)

METZ / Photo by Colin Medley

Who: Though METZ now make Toronto their home, their noisy, radial saw-like punk barrage has firm roots in Ottawa. “I sometimes refer to it as the [Washington] D.C. of the north,” says singer-guitarist Alex Edkins of his nation’s capital and the DIY culture that it has incubated. “It’s a government city, so most people work for the government, but there’s not so much happening. So what do you do? You start a band.” More than boredom, though, it was the Dischord-inspired, “slightly less political” hardcore scene that Edkins and drummer Hayden Menzies, both 30, came of age in during the ’90s that shaped their trio’s uncompromising sound and live show. Although it took awhile for METZ to emerge, Edkins hesitates to discuss his first few bands. “I don’t think we want to go there,” he says with a laugh.

Stripped Bare: After a short time spent experimenting with “long, sprawling, psychedelic” material, Edkins says he began noticing a change in METZ two years ago, aided in part by the addition of bassist Chris Slorach, and heard best on their self-titled Sub Pop debut. “Things were getting more basic,” he says via telephone, shortly after returning home from handing out posters for an upcoming album-release show in Toronto. “You can hear it on the record. There are no bells and whistles. We’ve stripped things down to the bare necessities: concise, straight-ahead songwriting. Sometimes that’s lacking in loud music. We wanted to focus on songs first and then record them in a way that represents what we do live. It felt better and to be completely honest, it’s more fun to play.”

Beer, Sweat, But No Blood: Since tightening up their sound, METZ have developed a reputation for head-splitting live performances. “We have to turn up the amps because of the way Hayden plays drums; he only has one volume,” says Edkins. “We realized pretty early that little practice amps weren’t going to do it. We needed to at least match his volume, you know?” While Edkins says he can’t remember much of what happens during any given gig (“It’s over in a flash; it’s over before it starts”), his approach to singing and playing hasn’t resulted in any bodily injuries — at least, so far. “I always say that I feel really excited before we play, and after we’re done, I feel like I’ve woken up covered in sweat with a broken guitar. But losing my voice hasn’t been a problem. I don’t do anything for it. I just drink some beer.”

Barn Burner: Before METZ began work on the album, Graham Walsh, of local electronic weirdos Holy Fuck, approached the band about helping them record. Together, they retreated to an isolated barn “not far from Toronto” that was outfitted with a portable recording rig. Walsh’s ear for unusual textures is audible in the final, electrifying result. “That’s not your average rock’n’roll guy,” says Edkins of Walsh. “We figured it would be exciting to approach the record from another angle.”